Monthly Archives: November 2012

Navigating for Non Profits

Navigating for Non Profits

I was recently at an event where someone asked the question “what is on your bucket list” as an icebreaker question.  Most questions around the table were travel related.  The founders of today’s organization found a way to put together travel and giving.

Maggie and Jenna served two terms with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community (NCCC) where they fell in love with giving back to communities and traveling.  In NCCC you travel with a team every two months supporting existing nonprofits.  This experience really made Maggie and Jenna understand how beautiful America is and gave them both a passion for seeing it all.  However, they were not ready to stop volunteering as their NCCC program came to a close, so they began Navigating for Non Profits.

After their NCCC experience, Jenna was planning to move to Tennessee, had a car, and wanted a road trip partner.  Maggie was planning to head to North Carolina and both of them were hoping to get involved with a nonprofit to begin their careers.  Their idea started as offering to volunteer in State and National Parks in exchange for a free campsite, but a light bulb moment turned it into something bigger.  They decided they could work for all kinds of nonprofits, picked the name Navigating for Nonprofits, and applied for and received their 501c3 status.

As they planned their itinerary they considered several factors: they wanted to see unique places, visit friends, have reasonable drive times, and work for a variety of nonprofits.  They took some suggestions from people about nonprofits and cities and then spent some time mapping out their trip.  At this point, their itinerary is locked down and their trip is underway, but they are still planning some of the volunteer events in the cities they are visiting.  Jenna told me that they left San Francisco “with a dream two and a half months ago and we are still living it.  We get excited every time someone comes out and volunteers for the first time…We have seen both coasts and the Great Lakes.  We have met truly inspiring people.  This road trip has been incredible.”

They are keeping a page of their achievements of their road trip.  At this point they have recruited over 140 volunteers and given over 600 hours to 34 nonprofits.

Their journey is scheduled to come to an end in mid-December and then a whole new journey will begin.  After this trip, they have plans to help others plan volunteering road trips.

How can you help?

  • If you see your city on their itinerary, you can volunteer with them or reach out to visit with them as they see the sights.
  • You can also donate to their trip on their website.  Donations help pay for gas and their $9 a day food budget.
  • You can also spread the word about their trip.  The more people that hear about their trip, the more people will come out and get involved in the communities they visit.
  • Maggie and Jenna also encourage everyone to volunteer.  Just search the Internet for volunteer opportunities, grab some friends, and make a difference in your community.

You can learn more and follow their adventure on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Posts: Do Good Bus

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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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World Book Night

World Book Night

Last spring, I joined two other members of my local Women of Today chapter to give books to random strangers.  We didn’t think of this on our own, there is an organization on a mission to celebrate reading by giving away books.

World Book Night United States is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.  It was celebrated for the first time in the United States in 2012 and will now be an annual event.  World Book Night was first celebrated in the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2011 as a way to encourage more adults to read.

Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go into their communities and hand out half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to adult light and non-readers.  In their first year in the US, 25,000 volunteer book givers handed out books in 5,800 towns and cities around America.

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading to those who do not regularly do so.  But I learned firsthand that it is more than that.  It is about people, communities and connections.  It is about reaching out to others and touching lives through the sharing of stories.  Each person that received the books I helped hand out was so appreciative and happy.  We had several conversations about books and reading.

The rules to the program are simple: give away all the books you receive.  Each of the volunteer book givers did things in their own way.  One volunteer, Suzie, said she went back to the community center where they gave out the book to have a potluck dinner and great conversations about the book.  Another volunteer, Colleen, walked back to where she had been handing out books to see people already reading them.  Heather gave her books to a local correctional facility and received a packet of handwritten thank you letters, one of which mentioned that the book he received that night was the first book he had ever read to completion.  Yet another volunteer, Chris Cander, gave her books to youth at a shelter for the homeless and runaway teens and then wrote about it on her blog.

World Book Night US is made up of thousands of passionate book lovers in America: Volunteer book givers who share their time and energy, the participating booksellers and librarians who host events, the authors who waive their royalties, and the publishers who contribute to the production and distribution of the free World Book Night paperbacks across the country.

How can you get involved?

  • The signup for the 2013 event recently opened.  First, review the list of books for 2013, then read the guidelines for the program and apply.  You need to apply by January.  In February you will learn if you will receive books to hand out on April 23.
  • You can also spread the work about the program though social media or sharing it with your community.
  • The organization also appreciates financial donations or information about foundations or groups that might be interested in supporting them.

You can learn more on the World Book Night US website,  If you have specific questions, you can e-mail them at  You can also connect with them on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Goodreads, and Instagram!

Related Post: Little Free Library

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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Love for Leah

On this Thanksgiving week, I have many things to be thankful for, my wonderful husband, a great family, and a good job.  After writing so many stories of grief and loss on my blog, I am thankful to be blessed with two wonderful and healthy children.  I am also thankful that so many people have turned their grief into an organization to help others.  Today’s organization is just one example.

Jenny and Marc Fujinami found out they were pregnant on May 21, 2011.  They were excited and nervous just as any new parents would be.  At just 13 weeks along, they learned that there was something wrong.  Nothing was certain except that their baby girl would have a birth defect.  At 18 weeks, they learned that she had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) and a Diagrammatic Hernia and were given a 1% chance that she would survive.  They named the baby Leah and continued to hope for a miracle.  Jenny tells the rest of their heart wrenching story better than I ever could.

The sad truth is that 1 in 160 pregnant women will experience stillbirth and 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in miscarriage, stillbirth or other tragic events shortly after birth.  After her experience, Jenny knew that more should be offered to families experiencing infant loss.  She partnered with Carolyn, the photographer and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep volunteer who captured photographs of Leah’s birth, to create Love for Leah.

Love for Leah

Love for Leah is an organization that donates Love for Leah Bags to families in Cheyenne, Wyoming who are experiencing the loss of an infant while at the hospital.  The bags include items to capture memories, books to offer advice, and a list of resources, support and helpful organizations.  You can see a full list of the items included as well as a photo on their website.

How can you help?

  • You can make a monetary donation or inquire about items you can donate.  You can learn more about making a donation on their website.
  • You can also share the story and share all the great resources they have collected with others who may benefit from them.
  • If you live in the Cheyenne, Wyoming area you can watch for promotional events or memorial events sponsored by Love for Leah.
  • Love for Leah also seeks volunteers to help with fundraisers, bag assembly, and helping spread the word at vendor fairs and other events.  You can contact them at to volunteer.

You can learn more about Love for Leah on their website, and on Facebook.

Related posts: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, Mikayla’s Grace, and Project Sweet Peas 

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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Women With Drive

Women With Drive

I have been lucky to have a vehicle since I was old enough to drive.  There have been a few times when I had car troubles and it was difficult to make due while the car was being repaired.  But, some people do not have a car.  While public transportation can get you some places, it can’t get you everywhere and not all cities have great public transportation systems.  Today’s organization is working to make a difference.

There is research that links a number of factors suggesting that inadequate transportation hinders a welfare recipients’ ability to seek and keep employment.  The Surface Transportation Policy Project cites the following findings: the Welfare to Work Partnership found the most significant barrier to employment for their employees was transportation; a study by the Volpe Institute revealed that three of every five jobs suitable for welfare-to-work participants are not accessible by public transportation; and most metropolitan areas typically do not offer adequate services during second and third shift hours.

The Women with Drive Foundation was founded in 2010 by Molly Cantrell-Kraig to help fill that gap.  Molly knew what it was like to struggle as a single mother.  She spent twenty years learning the lessons of autonomy and self-sufficiency.  She found many organizations that help women develop skills to be self-sufficient, but she only found a few organizations that provided reliable transportation to facilitate a woman’s independence.  Molly had a vision for something bigger.  She wanted to incorporate a two-year developmental journey alongside the distribution of a car to help empower women.

Women with Drive wishes to provide women with the literal and figurative vehicle to enable her to change her life.  They do this by collaborating with private and public organizations that help them identify and strategically invest in women who have taken ownership of their choices and wish to transition off a life of welfare to a life of self-sufficiency.  The organization currently is limited to the state of Iowa, but they do have plans to scale nationwide.  They have already received requests to start chapters in the states of Washington, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, and Oklahoma.

The organization taps existing resources within the community to help the participants access higher education, gain financial planning skills, learn interviewing and other life skills designed to empower her, her children and give her a new perspective about her capabilities.  By removing the pressure of owning and maintaining a vehicle, the women helped by the organization have the energy to focus on elevating and empowering themselves.  Molly stated, “Our goal is to ‘inoculate’ women against poverty. The mission of our organization will affect not only the primary participant (the woman who applies and receives a car), but her children will have witnessed their mother taking ownership and accountability of her choices. These children’s lives will have a different trajectory. Our goal is to contribute a very pragmatic and vital part of the capacity building process so that women can gain dignity, independence and live a meaningful life.”

How can you help?

  • Women with Drive has several volunteer opportunities include social media administration, database management, newsletter composition, and general awareness building.  They are also recruiting board members for 2013.  You can contact them to learn more about specific opportunities.
  • They are also seeking to partner with a university or college to provide a measurement model to track the return on the investments in their program.
  • Donations of cash and cars are always welcome to continue their mission.  You can learn more about making a donation on their website.
  • You can also support them by making a purchase in their online store.

You can learn more about the Women with Drive Foundation on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.


Posted by on November 15, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Earth Rangers

Earth Rangers

My daughter loves animals.  She has been reading about animals since she was old enough to read.  She loves all animals so when I saw today’s organization I immediately thought of her.

Earth Rangers is a Canadian conservation organization for kids based in Woodbridge, Ontario.  The organization was founded in 2001 and is focused on communicating a positive, science-based message on the importance of protecting biodiversity.  Their programs, including a children’s website,, a television presence, and a School Outreach Program, educate children about the threats facing animals and their habitats.  These programs allow Earth Rangers to reach, inspire, and enable millions of children each year to take action to help ensure the lasting survival of species in Canada.

The Earth Rangers Animal Ambassadors are the live animals featured in the School Outreach Program that visit over 550 schools across Canada annually with the organization’s Wildlife Biologists.  The program includes an animal demonstration in front of a full school assembly focusing on the natural science as well as the challenges facing Canadian biodiversity today.  The program inspires students to learn more about animals, their habitats, and protection of biodiversity.

The Animal Ambassadors call the Earth Rangers Centre home.  This building was designed to embody the Earth Rangers values and inspire everyone who walks through its doors.  The building is certified LEED Platinum for Existing Buildings utilizing advanced green building features such as energy monitoring, solar generation, green roofing, and geothermal heating and cooling.

Earth Rangers also has a kid-powered conservation program called Bring Back the Wild.  This program is design to help protect endangered animals in Canada by raising funds to purchase, restore, and protect their wild habitats.  Since launching the program in September 2010, over 150,000 children have registered to help protect animals and their habitats.  The Bring Back the Wild program allows children to visit the Earth Rangers website to learn more about the threats to a species and their habitat, and then create a fundraising campaign to help make a difference.

Some kids have done so much to make a difference, Earth Rangers have featured them as Super Rangers.  Some recent Super Rangers include:

  • Natalie and Haley who are selling cakes to save wildlife,
  • Alex who is selling chocolate chip cookies to save Caribou, and
  • Veronica who started an Earth Ranger Club at her school.

How can you help?

  • You can encourage the children in your life to visit to learn more about the threats facing animals and their habitats.  You can also help them create a Bring Back the Wild fundraising campaign.  Families can support children by getting involved and helping them to raise funds to meet their goal.
  • Children and adults can also hold an Earth Rangers themed birthday party to raise funds for wildlife.
  • There are also opportunities for corporations to get involved through the Corporate Volunteer Program.
  • There are also opportunities to make a donation on the Earth Rangers website.
  • You can also follow the Earth Rangers blog to stay updated on their work and organization.   

You can find out more on their website,  Their children’s website can be found at  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest.


Related post: One More Generation


Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Prior Lake Players

Prior Lake Players

Today’s organization has been a big part of my life in the last couple months.  In early September, my daughter auditioned for a play and she convinced me to also audition too.  We both got parts, she is a playing card and I am a duck.  This past weekend was our first set of shows!

The Prior Lake Players started as an idea inspired by a play at a local community festival.  Thirteen couples, including Nick and Patti Sotis, came together in 1972 at a cocktail party and decided to put together a theatre organization.  They held their first meeting that year.  One of the couples had been involved in a local theatre organization in another Minneapolis suburb, so they were able to quickly develop bylaws and become registered as a nonprofit.  

Their first show was “Don’t Drink the Water” in the Spring of 1973 and have done a play each spring and fall since including “The Wizard of Oz”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, and “My Fair Lady”, just to name a few.  Their current production is “Alice in Wonderland”. 

The Prior Lake Players is a non-profit, performing arts educational group formed for the purpose of producing and performing live theatrical entertainments, including both established and original scripts, and of providing training and experience to its members in the various artistic and technical aspects of live theatre. 

In 1976, Nick and Patti’s daughter, Karen Welch was in her first play, The Music Man.  She was in the chorus.  It was her most memorable play because her brother and parents were also in the cast and it was fun to be in a play together as a family.  In Alice in Wonderland, the family tradition continues with Karen playing the caterpillar and her daughter Caitlin Welch playing the Gryphon. 

The theme of family involvement doesn’t end with them.  Kay Dunning worked on the wonderful costumes for Alice in Wonderland and her daughter Ryanne Dunning was in the play as the Dodo bird and Tweedledee.  In 1993, Kay did set design, costume design, directed and acted in The Music Man. 

The organization also has a scholarship program for high school seniors who were either in their productions or attend the local school district.  Up to $1,000 is given out each year.  You can learn more about the Nick Sotis Memorial Scholarship program by contacting the Prior Lake Players

How can you help?

  • You can sign up for their e-mail list by e-mailing to keep up to date with upcoming shows and events. 
  • You can sign up to be a member to receive discounts and other benefits. 
  • Tax deductible donations can be made through
  • Before each play can come to stage, they need many volunteers including actors, set construction, prop building, costume sewing, publicity, and more!  During the productions they also need volunteers to sell tickets prior to the show and serve refreshments during intermission.  E-mail to learn more about specific volunteer opportunities.
  • The organization does also do things between productions such as walk in parades and attend other local events.  If you are interested in offering your time or talents in other ways, you can contact them at

No play is successful without an audience, so consider taking an evening or afternoon to enjoy the show!  You can connect with the Prior Lake Players on their website,  You can also sign up for their e-mail list and like them on Facebook.  If you don’t live near Prior Lake, Minnesota, there is likely a small theatre organization near you and they likely have many of the same volunteer opportunities as the Prior Lake Players.

Alice in Wonderland Cast Photo - November 2012

Alice in Wonderland Cast Photo – November 2012


Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Life Vest Inside

Life Vest Inside

This year I have had a series of posts about kindness to highlight that kindness makes a difference.  Some stories included a volunteer becoming a client, how to be kind to those who are different, and how to make habits of kindness in your family.  Today’s organization is on a mission to spread kindness.

Life Vest Inside is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading kindness, empowering people to see their potential and building self-esteem and self-value.  They use inspirational films, a newly developed educational curriculum, and a social platform that connects people across the globe.  Life Vest Inside has an exciting kindness experience to bring back the human connection.  This connection helps people become more aware of their surroundings, not just by words, but through gratifying and uplifting acts of kindness.  Kindness is a universal language.

Orly Wahba always knew in her heart that she wanted to make a difference in the world; “I wanted to leave my mark and I wanted more than anything to bring people together under the banner of peace, respect, and kindness.”  Orly had a difficult time in middle school and high school until one day she looked in the mirror and asked if this was still the girl that was going to change the world with kindness.  “This would not be my end; it was just the beginning. I promised myself back then that I would rise back up and that I would be there for people the way I had wished someone would have been there for me. Been keeping to that promise ever since.”  That promise led her to work with community service organizations, led her to become a middle school teacher, and ultimately led to Life Vest Inside.

So what’s with the name “Life Vest Inside”?  In January 2007, Orly was on a plane to head off on a family vacation when she received the tragic news that a young girl in her community had passed away.  Her mind immediately went to her 7th grade students who had just begun to open up about a classmate who had passed away just three years earlier.  Her eyes became fixated on a small sign that read “LIFE VEST INSIDE” and felt instant comfort.  “A life vest stays afloat regardless of how much you push down upon it. The message hit me to my core. How do you stay afloat? Your life vest is inside! Through the kindness you bestow upon others and through the kindness others bestow upon you we can keep each other afloat through life’s rough seas. We can’t stop or prevent life’s tragedies or curve balls from coming our way, but we can most certainly extend a lifeline to someone in need. And hence, Life Vest Insidewas born.”

The philosophy of the organization is to Inspire, Engage, Educate and Connect. They strive to use these four steps to guide people from mere inspiration to follow through.

  • Inspire: They inspire and instill faith, hope, and belief in a better, brighter tomorrow through the production of inspirational films as well as the use of social media.  Their first short film, Kindness Boomerang has been viewed by over 20 million people. 
  • Engage: The organization offers an exciting and accessible kindness experience, so that people will become more aware of the opportunities that surround them.  Experiences will include Kindness Mission Days, Flash Mob Events, Acts of Kindness Cards, and an upcoming mobile app.  In addition, in February, they will be raising funding by participating in the Disney Princess Half-Marathon.
  • Educate: Life Vest Inside is educating children in kindergarten through high school to see the beauty within them.  They seek to empower the youth to raise their voices in kindness, love and respect through our wonderful and interactive Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Kindness Curriculum.
  • Connect: Life Vest Inside is working to connect people and organizations through a worldwide volunteer database making it fun and easy to turn inspiration into action by allowing individuals to be matched with organizations that match their interests. 

The organization is based in Brooklyn, New York, but anyone around the world can become involved. 

  • Most importantly, you can spread the message and raise awareness about the organization by sharing this post.
  • You can also make a monetary donation through the Life Vest Inside website
  • There are also volunteer opportunities.  If you are interested in film, computer programing, graphic design, music, social media, education, blogging, or pretty much anything else, Life Vest Inside can find something you can help with.  You can connect with them about specific opportunities on their website.
  • If you are interested in participating in the Disney Princess Half-Marathon, visit
  • You can learn more about the kindness curriculum and sign up your school their website.
  • They are also interested in connecting with volunteer leaders to help plan and organize events and fundraisers to bring awareness to the organization.  You can e-mail the volunteer contact on their website to learn more.

You can learn more about Life Vest Inside on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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